History of the Hartshorne House

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The History of the Hartshorne House

                                    by Nancy Bertrand

(excerpted from Wakefield: 350 Years by the Lake, copyright Wakefield 350, 1994)

In the earliest days of the settlement of the town of Redding, when the choicest lands were being divided, William Hooper drew “Lynn Medow” in the first distribution of lands (Jan. 11, 1644).  Six years later on December 26, 1650, he added to his holdings with “a piece of meadow for his satisfaction” near the “Great Swamp.”

These two holdings gave Hooper the lands on which he built his homestead, the lands on which the present day Hartshorne House stands.  As a note to a speculative map of the 1647 town, Will Eaton noted a homestead on the “southerly side of Church street at the south end of Reading pond, at or near the present old Hartshorne House.”

In 1664, Hooper had gained other lands and was ready to move his family home up “Cowdery’s Hill.”  On December 14 of that year, he sold “my now dwelling house being situated in Redding with fower acres of land thereunto adjoining with the orchard, garden and fencing thereto belonging and is bounded onthe north with the highways and on the east with the land of Isaac Hart and in the south with the Lands of Roberte Burnap Jr. and on the west with the Land of Thomas Kendall” to one Mary Hodgman.

Mary, at age 24, was the widow of Ezekial Morrill.  Morrill, who probably came from Cambridge, had received lands had received 47 acres and 13 poles of “Upland… on the north side of the Ipswich River” in a town division in 1658 – 1659 and had died while on a trip to Roxbury.  In a will dated May 31, 1662, he bequeathed all his property to his wife Mary.  His death in May of 1663 made Mary a fairly wealthy widow.  His house and lands were worth £24; added to his personal belongings, they amounted to a total value of £93, 11d. In buying her new lands from William Hooper, Mary does not affix her signature; rather, she signs with a mark.   Mary had remarried before the end of 1663, only months after her husband’s death.  Such speed in remarriage was a necessity in the pioneer town that was seventeenth century Redding.  These were difficult times for a woman alone; she would virtually have to marry in order to have a work partner to ensure her survival.  The speed of her remarriage, however, is perhaps motivated by more than mere convenience, or even necessity.  In the sketchy records of the early days of the Church, we find her name twice mentioned in connection with the transgressions of others.  In 1662, a George Davis is rebuked for “wanton words and carriage to Mary Morrill.”  In 1663, a report is made that “John Bachellor Junior (made) an attempt upon Mary Hodgman, but she resisted him.”  Clearly she was an attractive woman, who would not have wanted for beaux.

With the £26 of her purchase price, Mary bought a new home for herself and her new husband, Thomas Hodgman.  It is perhaps a show of independence unusual for the time that Thomas Hodgman’s name does not appear on the deed, but only that of Mary Hodgman.

This deed is the first mention of the name Hodgman in the town records.  Hodgman was not a first settler, but we have no record of the area from which he came.  By 1667, he was described as a householder in the record of the 59 houses then in existence in the town.  But was the house referred to the same house that we know as the Hartshorne House?  Hooper’s homestead, erected before 1647, had stood “bounded on the north with the highways.”  By April 13, 1680, the town had sold to Thos. Hodgman, 25 poles lying at the west end of his house:  Bounded by Goodman Edward’s land on the north; and the Town Highway on the south; and west by the Town Common.”  Some time between 1664 and 1680, the Hodgman’s either moved the original Hooper house across the road or abandoned that house and built a new home.  Either way, it probably pre-dated 1680.   The structure that they lived in, now impossible to definitively date, until its sale in 1725 was the southwestern corner of the present day Hartshorne House.

(Below: images of the southwestern room at the Hartshorne House. Click on any image to see it at fuller size.)

The Hodgman’s went on to become considerable landowners.  The lands abutting their house went to the south for a considerable distance, west across “Hodgman’s pond” to the Kendall holdings (the Kendall house was at the present 1 Prospect Street) and east to Isaac Hart’s land.  Mary sold “all the divident or dividents of land & meddow which was given to him that was my husband’s Ezekiell Morrell” to Richard Walker in 1677.  In 1680-1681, the Hodgman’s purchased a great deal of land, acquiring a total of 17 acres of swamp and two acres and “one piece” of meadow in 5 separate transactions.  It is important to remember that at that time, the inhabitants of the town of Redding, many of them remembering well the land-hungry days of their forebears in England, acquired lands for their homesteads with in the town proper, and swamp and meadow lands lying at some distance from their homes.  Hodgman, described  as a “yeoman” in the deeds to which he left either his mark or his signature) drew lands not only from individual purchases, but also from general divisions of lands on the easterly and westerly sides of the town.  His minister tax rate of £1, 0 s., 3 d. show he had  become a  wealthy man.  He contributed one shilling toward the purchase of the land from the Indians in 1686; and £5 toward the construction of the new meeting house in 1688.

A soldier in King Philip’s war under Captain Jonathon Poole and in the Narragansett Campaign in Captain Prentiss’ Troop of Horse, Hodgman earned the rank of “Sergeant,” and was later elected to the town offices of “hog constable” in 1678 and surveyor in 1682.  He and Mary, who had no children of their own, adopted a son, Josiah Webber, born in 1668.  The date of the adoption is unknown.

In the Puritan town that was seventeenth century Redding, the Hodgman’s seemed to have been less rigid than their neighbors.  They created quite a stir when, in 1671, they visited the house of Thomas Clark, keeper of the “ordinary” in the town.   Clark was convicted on his own confession of sufering disorderly persons in his house at an unreasonable time of night, and of threatening the Grand Jury, was sentenced to pay 15 shill and 5 pence.

Tho. Hodgman and his wife, Cornelius Browne, John Wiley, Sam’l. Dunton and Sarah Eaton “for their uncivil carriages in an unseasonable time of night at Tho. Clarke’s house, were admonished and fined costs.

The house they lived in was probably two stories high.  As wealthy landowners they would most likely have owned household furnishings that were fine for the time.  Ezekiell Morrill’s estate had listed ‘personal effects’ in the amount of £69. 11d.  This sum was probably invested in livestock, clothing, furnishings and household effects.  The sum of £69 indicates that his household was fairly well endowed for the time.  The estate of Nicholas Brown, one of the prime landowners of the town since its inception, was inventoried at £69 in household goods.  (This sum, however, excluded cattle and livestock.)  His estate listed three beds and bedding, brass and pewter, table linen, one dozen napkins, pillow, pillow beeres and clothes, two iron kettles and one pot and pothookes, andirons, tongs, bellowes, two brine tubs and two meshing tubs, axes, wedges, sawes, one pair of scales and weights, arms and armor, two bibles and other books, tables and chairs, lamps, corn, meat, cart and plow and other items.  Clearly, Mary’s home on the town highway was well endowed for its time.

Their relationship with their son Josiah was a good one.  As early as 1689, Hodgman co-purchased a homestead containing 20 acres, gardens, orchards, yards and swamp wood with his son (described as Josiah Hodgman, alias Webber, a yeoman).  And on behalf of Josiah, in 1696 he purchased 5 acres bounding his son’s lands.

(Below, images of the northwest room at the Hartshorne House. Click on any photograph to see it at larger size.)











By 1703, Tom and Mary Hodgman began bestowing property upon their son for the consideration of not money or property, but “Love and Goodwill to Dutiful Son.”  They finally sold their homestead in 1725, and presumably went to live with Josiah and his family.  Tom died in 1729 and Mary in 1735 at the age of 95.

At the time of the Hodgman’s sale of their homestead and abutting lands for £100 to the widow Patterson, it was said to contain

Four Acres, and it is part of the Homestead that the sd Hodgmans lived upon, bounded, Southerly by land of Capt. Thomas Nicholas, Easterly by the Ministerial land, (land formerly of Isaac Hart), Northerly by the Highway (Church Street), Westerly, by Kendall Boutells.

Also, thirty poles of land, and it is the other part of sd Hodgman’s homestead, and the above premises contain, one house and barn, and thirty poles and is bounded, Southerly, by the Highway, Easterly by the Town Common, Northerly, by Thomas Boutells (Boutels) Meadow, together with Orchard, fencing, etc.

Where Mrs. Patterson had come from, or what her maiden name was is not clear.  Her son, James, of Sudbury sold part of her lands in 1758 to Samuel Poole.  For the cost of £22, 10s., 4d., he sold

Four and one quarter Acres Upland and Meadow in Reading, bounded, Northerly, by the Road, (Church Street West), Easterly, on the land “of the Ministerial” (Prentiss Hose), Southerly, on land of Sam’l Poole, and Westerly, by land of James Emerson.

In 1757, the homestead itself, described as a small house and a half acre of land,  was sold to Jonathon Cowdrey, who lived in the house with his wife Rachel and his daughter Susannah, born in 1755.    Cowdrey belonged to a different family to the one that had lived in the town since 1642, the Cowdrey’s of “Cowdrey’s Hill”  (Prospect Street).  During the days of his ownership, the house was enlarged.  The section which today forms the center of the house was probably added at that time, along with the long sloping roof that covers the back kitchen.  This kitchen was probably original to the house, since it lies behind the original portion rather than being centrally located behind the two-room two-storey house of the Cowdrey’s ownership.

Cowdrey was a clock and buckle maker.  He made the old weather cock that was perched for nearly 100 years on the steeple of the Congregational Church of that period.  To practice his craft, he most likely added a smith’s shop to the property, which already included the house and the barn.

Although he owned the house for many years, he apparantly only lived in town for a few years, presumably renting the house for the remainder of the time.

(Below, images of the Central Room at the Hartshorne House.)

Between 1792 and 1802, the house was owned by the locally famous Dr. John Hart.  The doctor, for whom Hart’s Hill was named, was a Revolutionary War surgeon of considerable renown — he was closely affiliated with George Washington.  Dr. Hart lived on Main Street at the corner of Summer Street.   His purchase of the Church Street house was not for his family’s occupancy, but rather for an investment.  Hart made the final enlargements to the structure.  According to the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities report, done by Chris Lee Eaton in 1987, on the east end, these included an additional ground storey room and an extension to the east chamber above.  It is likely that the room above the kitchen was also added at this time, as part of the general expansion new roofing system for the main house.  There is visible evidence of roof changes in the attic stairway.

During this period of time, the house was probably used as an inn, according to a 1795 map of the First Parish.  True to his Revolutionary War background, Doctor Hart named the inn ‘The Lafayette House.’  (There is no evidence that General Lafayette ever stayed at the house.  Although he at one time passed through the present day Reading, Lafayette did not venture into the First Parish.)

Like his war colleague George Washington, Hart was a Mason, and customized the second floor of the house to accomodate the Mount Moriah Lodge of Freemasons, who met on the second floor.  There is evidence that he removed a wall to enlarge the room for the Blue Lodge of Masons, although the space has since been converted back to be divided into two chambers by the east stair.

According to Eaton’s Genealogical History, “it was occupied, subsequently for a public house by Mr. Harvey, Oliver Pope, and perhaps others.”  Following Dr. Hart’s ownership, the house was purchased by Caleb Eaton and Deacon David Smith who possessed it for only six months.  It was purchased in 1803 by James Hartshorne, cordwainer.

James (born in 1776) was the son of Deacon James and Sarah (Hopkinson) Hartshorne.  On the 29th of May in 1803, James Hartshorne, aged 27, filed his marriage intentions to Miss Abigail Coggin of Woburn.  He would live there until his death in 1870.  He was survived by his second wife, Mary Poole of Woburn, who lived there until her death in 1884.

(Below: James and Mary Hartshorne in early photographs) 

A descendant of Thomas Hartshorne, who was probably one of the earliest settlers, who made his home in 1644 on the present day Elm Street,  Hartshorne earned the title “colonel” as the commander of a company of cavalry organized in 1797.  Always active in the affairs of the First Parish Church, Hartshorne was also  Town Treasurer for 15 years, and also served as selectman.   He and his wife Abigail had seven children.  Following her 1816 death from tuberculosis, he married, Mary Poole of Woburn in 1819, with whom he would have six more children.  Of the thirteen children born here, only 8 would live to adulthood.

Ruth Woobury, in her 1976 booklet about the house, speculates about what life would have been like here while the Colonel owned the house.

“Abigail cooked over a fireplace fire, heating the “beehive” brick oven beside the kitchen hearth for her weekly baking.  If there was any sink it was a wooden one, the water brought in in wooden pails from the well in the yard.  Refrigeration was not needed in the winter when almost any part of the house away from a fireplace, even in the kitchen, was cold, freezing along the outside walls many days and nights.  The cellar was the cool spot in the summer.

There must have been a “little necessary house” near the back door, perhaps behind a clump of lilacs, or else a small room in a nearby shed…

Undoubtedly, Col. Hartshorne, who was a shoe manufacturer and comfortably well-to-do for his time, installed a hand pump in the kitchen before 1850, and probably bought a little cast iron kitchen stove around 1840.  Small sheet iron stoves to heat one or more rooms would have appeared at around the same time.

Candles and whale oil or camphene lamps lighted the Hartshorne’s house until kerosene lamps came into use about 1860.”

(Below: images of the East Room of the Hartshorne House. The vibrant color used in this room is conjectural: bright colors were often used to brighten the interiors of homes in the nineteenth century)

The Hartshorne family apparantly had little impact on the structure of the house; no major changes were made during their occupancy, although interior embellishments were probably added in keeping with the Colonel’s wealth and standing in the community.  In terms of outbuildings, it is believed that a shoe shop, perhaps recycled from the copper shop of the Cowdrey’s tenancy, was added to the property.

The Colonel’s business was shoemaking:  he apparantly supplied the cut leather to area cobblers who would have stitched the pieces together.  Shoe making was a tremendously important industry in the South Reading (as the town was then called) of the period; many houses had small shoe shops in the back yard where some of the finish work on shoes was done.

Following the Colonel’s death, his widow Mary lived in the house with her daughter and son-in-law, John and Mary Rayner.  It was to the Rayner’s that the house was left in 1884.  It is believed that the house was in fairly bad condition when it was next sold in 1890.  Its new owners were J. Reed Whipple of Boston and John G. Morrill of Wakefield, who with Frank H. Atwood later formed the Morrill-Atwood Ice Company.  The new owners turned the house into a tenement for ice house workers.

The ice industry was tremendously successful in Wakefield at the time; starting around the time that the railroad came through town to allow quick and easy bulk transit of the ice from South Reading to Boston.  Some of the ice was shipped to J. Reed Whipple’s hotels, active from about 1890 – 1910.  Some of the ice travelled around the world — or at least all the way to South America.    At one time the lake was ringed with ice houses.  (In fact, ice was cut here until 1947.)  The last portion of the last ice house here in Wakefield was torn down in 1989.

The Hartshorne House was actually incidental to the purchase of ‘Hartshorne Meadow,’ (now Veteran’s Field), where the ice houses were actually located.

The house was fairly well suited to being split into distinct pieces since it boasts three separate staircases.  Perhaps the small original kitchen was shared among the families living in the house.  Town water was connected sometime after 1883, but there was no central heating, probably no electricity, and very little amenities.

On September 26, 1929, when the ice houses were nearly empty, and the ice industry was faltering due to the rapid rise of electrical refrigeration, a spectacular general alarm fire consumed all of the ice company’s buildings except for the Hartshorne House.   On October 30, 1929,  on the day following the stock market crash, the town of Wakefield took over the deed of the house and ‘Hartshorne’s Meadow’ for the sum of $14,999.00.  The building was in a fairly dilapidated condition.  In March, 1930, by a narrow margin, the sum of $2,000 was voted to restore the building as part of the town’s participation in the Tercentennial Celebration of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1930.   The work was performed under the supervision of the Park Board and a subcommittee of the Tercentennial Committee.

(images: the exterior of the house today)

In order to provide for the upkeep of the house after the celebration year, the Colonel James Hartshorne House Association was formed on July 30, 1930.  Since that time the Association has leased the building from the town in order to preserve and maintain it.

In its first year, beside necessary structural repairs, a kitchen and a bathroom with second hand features were installed for the use of summertime hostesses.  A heating system was added in 1935 making it possible for caretakers to live in the house year round, on the second floor of the structure.   The Hartshorne House gardens were created by its first ‘caretaker,’ Mrs. Archibald Hume, who lived in the house from 1933 – 1967.

During the years of the Depression and World War II, it was difficult to raise money for anything except emergency projects, but since that time, the Association has been active in a variety of maintenance and restoration projects.

Money for normal upkeep and repair is raised through the rental of the downstairs rooms for functions, through memberships in the Hartshorne House Association and through other fundraising activities.  So successful has the Association been in its management of the house that it has only had to come to the town for additional funds for repair twice:  in 1968, $3000 was raised to do major repairs on the sills.  Only $1180.43 in tax money was spent, the rest reverting to the General Fund.  In 1989, $22,000  was raised from Town Meeting to assist in the total restoration of the historic roof of the structure.

The house is available for rental and will also open its doors to school groups, scout troops and interested residents.

(Photographs: copyright, Nancy Bertrand)

Visit the Hartshorne House Association Website.


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